2010 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Jason Langberg
Name of Host Organization: Advocates for Children's Services
City, State: Durham, North Carolina
Issue area: Children/Youth, Education,Civil Rights/Civil Liberties
My project will focus on dismantling Wake County’s school-to-prison pipeline. Grounded in a community lawyering philosophy, I will: 1) provide holistic legal advice and representation for students from low-income families in school discipline-related cases; 2) draft community education publications; 3) conduct presentations, workshops, and trainings for students, parents, advocates, services providers, educators, and policymakers; and 4) create a community-based diversion program as an alternative to suspensions and court referrals.
There’s a civil rights crisis in Wake County, North Carolina. For years the public school system has been pushing thousands upon thousands of students—disproportionately African-American students and students from low-income families—out of school and into the criminal justice system through excessive suspensions and court-referrals. The suffering, dehumanization and inequity caused by the district’s destructive policies cannot be tolerated.
Raleigh, North Carolina
Making the connection:
I've always been a student of and inspired by the social movements lawyers have helped lead. However, I began to experience firsthand the close connection between law and social justice after college when I worked at a child advocacy organization and volunteered as a guardian ad litem in Baltimore, Maryland. Everyday I saw the devastating effects of poverty, oppression, and system failure, but I also witnessed the incredible impact dedicated lawyers can have on creating large-scale, long-term positive change for youth.
Surviving law school:
Take advantage of every opportunity to get "real world/hands-on" experience fighting for justice (e.g. clinics, internships, externships, independent studies, etc.). You won’t learn how to be an excellent advocate by spending everyday at your law school with your nose in a book. Keep your soul fed with public service and good people, and remember to have some fun once in a while.
A People's History of the United States: this should be required reading for every high school student. Pedagogy of the Oppressed: this should be required reading for every educator. Anything by Jonathan Kozol: this should be required reading for every citizen.
Some great resources I often use for school-to-prison pipeline-related publications, news, best-practices, etc. are: www.stopschoolstojails.org; www.schooltoprison.org; and www.dignityinschools.org.